Leadership Initiative for Volunteers


A Jewish learning and leadership development program for volunteer leaders in North America.

The mission of the Wexner Heritage Program is to expand the vision of Jewish volunteer leaders, deepen their Jewish knowledge and confidence and inspire them to exercise transformative leadership in the Jewish community.

The program fulfills this mission by educating up-and-coming Jewish lay leaders in the history, thought, texts and contemporary leadership challenges of the Jewish People. Nearly 2,300 leaders from 35 North American cities have participated in the program.

Program Overview

The Wexner Heritage Program (WHP) is a two-year Educational experience that focuses on Jewish learning and leadership training. Twenty outstanding and diverse Jewish volunteer leaders are chosen from a given city and are provided with the opportunity to create strong bonds between volunteer leaders who live in the same Jewish community.

The mission of the Wexner Heritage Program is to expand the vision of Jewish volunteer leaders, deepen their Jewish knowledge and confidence and inspire them to exercise transformative leadership in the Jewish community.

The Wexner Foundation values diversity and pluralism and believes that our differences can be a source of richness and strength. The selection process reflects this commitment to diversity in terms of gender, religious denomination, organizational affiliation, biographical background, socio-economic background, Jewish interests and personality type. The Wexner Heritage Program creates a unique culture of mutual respect among each group, as well as in its curriculum, faculty and staff.

Wexner Heritage groups from multiple communities come together for Institutes, creating synergy across North America.

The Wexner Heritage Program engages the finest scholars, practitioners and professional leaders in the Jewish world. Faculty include professors from Academic Jewish studies programs and the leading rabbinical seminaries, congregational rabbis, professionals from Jewish Federations, Foundations and other communal organizations, and in Israel, both leading thinkers and public officials.

There is no cost to Members for the Wexner Heritage Program. The program is funded by The Wexner Foundation in partnership with the local community as a joint investment in the Jewish community’s future leadership.

Angie Atkins,
Director, Wexner Heritage Alumni
Rabbi David Russo, Director, Wexner Heritage Program
Sophie Silberstein,
Program Coordinator


The program is designed to deeply immerse current and future up-and-coming Jewish lay leaders in the text, thought, and leadership challenges of the Jewish People.

The dynamic curriculum is grounded in the wisdom of our tradition and in cutting-edge leadership learning. Seminars and Institutes reflect the following curricular components:

  • Yesodot: Jewish Fundamentals: Exploration of the fundamental texts, ideas, and traditions underlying an active and committed Jewish life.
  • The History of the Jewish People: The story of our people from Biblical times to the 21st century. The emphasis on the major issues, personalities and trends in Jewish history helps contemporary Jewish leaders to lead more effectively into the future.
  • The Thought of the Jewish People: A study of the major texts and ideas that have shaped our people: Bible, Rabbinic Literature (Talmud, Midrash, etc.), Liturgy and Modern Jewish Thought.
  • Leadership Learning: The Wexner Foundation’s conceptual and practical approach to leadership learning, derived from Jewish and secular sources.
  • Contemporary Issues: Confronting the complex challenges facing Judaism, the Jewish people and Israel today, including peer consultation on real-time leadership issues.

Seminars and Institutes
There are two components to the Wexner Heritage Program:

Over the course of their two years in the program, Wexner Heritage Members attend 36 evening seminars that meet locally and are held approximately twice a month, for an intensive four hours.

Members are afforded the opportunity to attend three out-of-town Summer Institutes, each 5-7 days in length, that are held in resort conference centers in the United States and Israel. Institutes take place at the beginning, middle and end of the two-year program.

The WHP is a focused experience that requires a significant commitment of time and energy from each participant. Attendance at all Seminars and Institutes is critical. There is reading and other preparation for each session as well.

Selection Process

Members are admitted to the program through a three-part process:

1. Nomination

The Wexner Foundation solicits nominations from Wexner Alumni and top professional and lay leaders representing the broadest cross-section of the Jewish community. Candidates must be nominated by one of these sources.

2. Application

Select nominees are invited to apply for the program. You will be asked to submit a written application that will be completed online. These applications are then reviewed and a group of finalists is chosen based on the applications.

3. Interview

Finalists are interviewed locally by a selection panel composed of Wexner Foundation staff, Wexner Heritage Alumni and other respected Jewish professionals and leaders. Following the interviews, the final group of 20 Members is selected.

Members are generally 30-to-45 years old and have personal, professional and communal lives reflecting leadership and commitment to the Jewish people, as well as significant potential for future growth as Jewish leaders.

Please note we generally do not accept those who are working as Jewish professionals in the community.

Potential candidates should reflect several of the following criteria:

  • Demonstrated commitment to Judaism, the Jewish community and/or Israel.
  • Innate vision for future possibilities, the ability to articulate the vision and the drive to make the vision a reality.
  • Potential to be a significant driving presence within your organization or agency.
  • Track record of leadership in Jewish communal life.
  • Intelligence, curiosity and creativity.
  • Strong socialization and communication skills.
  • Emotional stability and personal integrity.

The Wexner Foundation’s core values include diversity and inclusion. Accordingly, the Foundation has committed to addressing racial inequity in the Jewish community. This effort includes an ongoing, rigorous internal learning process, and it also applies to our programming. As one significant step to fulfill that commitment, the Foundation, in partnership with UJA-Federation of New York, has launched this cohort of the Wexner Heritage Program to make a significant impact on leadership development among Jews of Color (JoC) in New York City. The Wexner Heritage New York JOC Cohort will enable the development and support of outstanding JOC volunteer leaders from Jewish communities in the New York area through a two-year immersive Jewish and leadership learning experience.

To learn more about our New York Jews of Color Cohort, click here.

Alumni Network

The 2,300 Alumni of the Wexner Heritage Program are top lay leaders at the local, national and international level. In the 35 cities where we have convened WHP cohorts, virtually every Jewish communal organization continues to be supported by our Alumni. They become presidents or chairs of synagogues, Federations, JCC’s, Hillels, day schools, camps and more; they often are founders or chairs of allocations or annual campaigns. They serve on the boards of JFNA, 70 Faces Media, the Foundation for Jewish Camp, International Hillel, AIPAC and J Street; The Shalom Hartman Institute, Pardes, Hadar and every US rabbinical seminary; the Jewish Education Project, Prisma, the JDC and so many more.

Alumni support NGOs across the spectrum in Israel and internationally and also chair the American side of those NGOs. They have founded and continue to support virtually every Limmud or Jewish Film Festival or Jewish and/or Holocaust Museums. They may see the need for a new organization and start it; they may see the need for a new way of doing something within an existing organization, or a constructive merger, and they implement it. While the Wexner Heritage program aims to transform Jewish lay leaders, our Alumni are in turn prepared and charged to go out and transform their communities and the Jewish world. They are bolstered by the Foundation’s network, staff and our ongoing programs and platforms for Alumni.

While Alumni of the Wexner Heritage program clearly are diverse, they share some important overarching values:

  • Collaboration
  • Inclusion
  • A dedication to Jewish texts and the tradition informing their communal agendas

They share top characteristics of great leaders: vision, talent, grit and optimism.

In addition to the Wexner Heritage Alumni, Alumni also reach out to, benefit from and support Wexner Alumni of the Graduate, Field and Israeli Fellowships, as well as Wexner Senior Leaders in Israel. Altogether, there are more than 3,000 Alumni across our programs, each one a powerful social change agent, motivated to make Israel, the Jewish World, and the world at large, a better place. Many of our affinity groups and gatherings now cross pollinate all of our Alumni groups.

Learn more about our Alumni here.

Meet Our Members and Alumni

Community Partnerships

Partnership is a core value of The Wexner Foundation, reflected in our goals, our programming and our community relationships.

In order to enable communities to co-invest in and leverage future leadership, we decided in the early 2000s to engage funding partners for the Wexner Heritage Program. These partners ensure the strength and vitality of their own communities by sharing the responsibility for educating the next cadre of Jewish communal leaders.

Every year we partner with three communities to launch Wexner Heritage cohorts on their Jewish leadership journeys. The Wexner Foundation and the local community funding partners share the expense of the two-year program, contributing $350,000 each toward the total program cost of $700,000.

Each community partnership is a unique collection of local stakeholders. Funders have included Jewish Federations, individual philanthropists, private foundations, community foundations and alumni of the Wexner Heritage Program, among others. This joint investment allows the program to be offered at no cost to participants. Community partners are asked to sign a letter of agreement in advance to secure their place.

As we look to the future to expand the reach of the Wexner Heritage Program, we have already confirmed our partnerships with communities for the next several years.

Interest In A Community Partnership?
If you are interested in pursuing a community partnership, please contact Vice President, Rabbi Jay Moses.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who is the ideal candidate for this position?

Wexner Heritage Members are people who are dedicated and passionate about helping the Jewish community to thrive and flourish. They are people of vision, integrity, and they take initiative to fix and better their communities.

How does this program help me grow as a leader?

The Wexner Heritage Program, and the Wexner Foundation in general, believes that leaders are made not born, and that to be an exceptional leader of the Jewish community, one must be steeped in the great ideas, history, and thought of the Jewish people. You also need leadership skills and training, and a community of diverse peers to help you bring out your own talents, and to learn and grow from the talents and perspectives of others. All of this will be given to you in this transformative leadership program.

Is there a cost to joining the program?

There is no cost to Members for the Wexner Heritage Program.

How are spouses incorporated into the program?

While only members attend Seminars, Spouses are invited to join their Member partners at the three institutes in the US, and Israel.

How does the foundation work with our local federations and community leaders?

Partnership is a core value of The Wexner Foundation, reflected in our goals, our programming and our community relationships. In every city we partner with, we work in tandem with the local community leadership, local Federations, funders and Foundations.